An aerial photograph of York from the 1920s which we reproduced in The Press almost a year ago has prompted reader Derek Rayner to get in touch with the fascinating history of York’s First World War ‘gift tank’.

The photograph showed a bird’s-eye view of Clifford’s Tower and Tower Gardens.

Look closely, and you could make out, in the corner of Tower Gardens, an odd shape like a parallelogram.

That was, local historian Hugh Murray assured the Press, a tank from the First World War which, for 20 years or so, stood in the gardens as a monument to the Great War. It was melted down at about the start of the Second World War for metal.

Some time after we published the piece, Mr Rayner, from Acomb, received a letter from a Mr P Jennings of Lewes in Sussex. Mr Jennings was attempting to document all the First World War tanks given to various towns and cities after the war came to an end.

Mr Rayner wrote to us and said: “Mr Jennings tells me that the tank awarded to York was officially presented on July 12, 1919.

“Towards the end of the war a number of towns and cities held Tank Weeks when there was a sale of War Bonds and War Savings Certificates to fund the provision of weapons.

“At any one time, there were six of these Tank Week tanks touring the country and it would have been likely that this war machine would have been the first example of its type that the civilian population would have seen. York was on the itinerary of this tour and hosted a successful Tank Week.”

At the end of the war, the government offered to donate 265 tanks to various towns and cities which had hosted Tank Weeks.

“These tanks were awarded by the National War Savings committee and were delivered to the recipients by the Tank Corps,” Mr Rayner writes. “They were delivered without guns. In this condition, it was felt they would be less susceptible to misuse in the future.

"Invariably they were delivered by rail by a Tank Corps crew and were driven to the site selected by the council where the final drive chains were removed – just in case someone decided to take the machine for a jaunt around the place in the wee small hours.

“At the handing-over ceremony, an appropriate military officer usually made a speech telling the assembled crowd of some famous action that the tank had been engaged in – but in fact, from existing photographs, most of them appear to have been training tanks that had seen no action at all.”

A number of Yorkshire towns and cities were due to receive tanks, including York, Wakefield, Hull, Harrogate, Beverley, Pontefract, Bridlington, Sheffield, Selby, Leeds, Skipton, Scarborough and Whitby.

However, it is known that Harrogate and Selby Councils refused the offer.

Mr Rayner said. “It is understood that most communities did not really welcome the gift for in many instances, they were not really war trophies and only reminded people of the horrors of the war that they would prefer to forget.”

Hugh Murray – who supplied the wonderful photographs of the tank on these pages – said it was not the only piece of former military hardware that, in the early 1900s, was used in York to commemorate past conflicts.

Most well-known, perhaps, was the cannon from the Crimean War which stood at the Blue Bridge near where the Foss meets the Ouse. These were clearly items of some interest, as can be seen from the two people posing beside them for a photograph, also supplied by Mr Murray.

There was also a cannon – which can clearly be seen in yet another photograph provided by Mr Murray – on land next to the council offices near King’s Manor. This, Mr Murray believes, might have commemorated the Boer War.

All were scrapped, together with the tank, at about the start of the Second World War.

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• If you have any information about York’s First World War tank, Derek Rayner would love to hear from you. You can contact him at